It’s funny that for someone who is very much all about “It wasn’t meant to be” and “Things happen for a reason” and who despite not being religious likes to think of herself as fairly spiritual, I have a real problem with letting go. I like to think that I have a handle on everything, and life has sometimes misled me to believe that I do. To a certain extent, I’ve always gotten what I wanted. I’m reasonably intelligent and come from a relatively privileged background, so opportunities have always come my way and I’ve been able to capitalise on them. I’ve always had a false sense of control.
Having kids makes you more realistic about this – you learn to expect the unexpected, because with kids things don’t always go to plan. But even so, the “unexpected” tends to fall within a certain realm of “expected surprises”; baby doesn’t nap, toddler wets their pants, school kid takes a fall and so on. “Oh that happened to my friend,” you think and laugh it off. It’s a little stressful, but only momentarily.
Recently with Ruby I’ve been tackling a slightly more unexpected surprise in the form of her setbacks with her hips and gross motor delays, and it hasn’t always been easy. I am constantly seeking answers, timelines, solutions, anecdotes, and they’re not always available. I just have to wait and trust, which I’m not so good at. I have had the occasional rebellious, spoilt brat reaction of “Hell to all of this, she doesn’t have to wear your stupid harness just because you say so,” and wanting to rip it off and practise crawling and rolling and bathing. But I have to let it go.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in relation to Heike, who is growing up before my eyes, going to school every day and having her own life that is completely separate to mine. She has an extremely big, bossy personality and I constantly stress about how she interacts with her peers. With adults she is warm, friendly and engaging. With other children she can be the same, or she can be a terrifying Sergeant Major type prone to age inappropriate emotional outbursts.
A few weeks ago we had a confronting experience in the playground. A group of girls, who are all close friends and all in the same class (a different class to Heike) were playing an elaborate imaginary game. Heike wanted to play, and they grudgingly let her (a friend of hers from outside school was in the group) but of course she immediately began changing the parameters of the game. They came to tell me and I explained to Heike that it was their game, their rules and she could choose whether or not to play. She decided that she would play with some other friends.
She and these friends (who were mostly boys and thus content for her to be their supreme ruler) began playing extremely close to the other group, with Heike hanging upside down from the playground equipment and singing loudly. Deliberately irritating them, classic kid move. And so one of the other little girls grabbed her by the arm, pulled her off the playground equipment and dragged her about 2 metres away.
Heike was shocked and devastated, as was I – I didn’t know how to react (I feel like as a parent I never know the appropriate way to react). Another Mum, a friend of ours, moved in to comfort Heike and I ran to check she was okay. The thing is, I could understand this other girl’s reaction – Heike is relentless, she doesn’t give up and she is clever enough to know just the right buttons to push. If anyone is going to make you reach boiling point and do something you’re not proud of, it’s her. But also it was completely not okay, and if the shoe had been on the other foot I would have been horrified by that behaviour.
Anyway, no one moved in to reprimand this other little girl and I was absolutely livid. I made sure to remind Heike very loudly that that behaviour is NEVER okay, that it is dangerous, all those other things you say. But I couldn’t believe no one stepped in. On the contrary, people were turning away so as not to get involved. It gave the completely wrong message to those girls – that if someone annoys you enough, it’s okay to get physical and humiliate them.
I left the playground almost in tears with anger and pity for Heike, who can not help the little person she is. I was so angry I was determined never to smile at those little girls or their mothers ever again, I was going to move home to Australia and to hell with all of them.
But that’s the thing- I can’t control who Heike is, or how others respond to her. I can’t control who likes her and who doesn’t, and I certainly can’t make her be less stubborn (god knows I’ve tried). She is going to need to learn all these lessons herself, and there are going to be some hard ones. But she needs to pave her own way, and I need to let go. Because holding on to that anger, and that worry, only gives it fuel.
SO with a lot going on in my head and in my life lately “letting go” is going to be my new focus. Is there an art to it? I don’t think so. It’s just deciding to do it, and not to hold on to all that stress and fear and worry, that is the hard part.